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Ark-La-Tex In Depth: Helping the Helpless - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Ark-La-Tex In Depth: Helping the Helpless

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"This is my brother and he is important to me," Helen Wilson says with tears in her eyes.

Wilson took care of her brother, Jimmy, who suffers from schizophrenia, for over 20 years, before he was placed in a local nursing home several months ago.

But now Wilson says she's concerned about his care.

"I would go there and his skin looked real bad. He needed a shave, he hadn't taken a bath."

Wilson says she would bring her concerns to the facility's administration, but would get no results.

"He'll go to church looking any kind of way and it hurts my feelings for him to go out in the public looking like that."

And while nothing can seem more frustrating than feeling as though a loved one isn't being cared for properly, there are steps you can take to ensure you're making the right choice.

"See real-life activities in the facility and see the normal flow of processes that are going on within the facility," explains Cecile Castello, Director of DHH's Health Standards Section.

Castello says inspectors look for criteria like physical condition of the facility, safety, sanitation, and resident rights.

"Areas such as the care and services that are being provided, treatment of the residents, adherence to plans and orders by the physicians."

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is responsible for conducting inspections - also known as surveys - as well as rating any deficiencies on a number system.

The results of these are available on the Medicare.gov website, which offers a nursing home compare feature.

You can search by zip code, and view any facility's latest survey results.

This site also rates facilities on a five-star system, based on an overall look at factors like health, staffing, and quality of care.

If a facility fails to meet inspection criteria, DHH would then conduct an investigation into the violations, and complete a report that the facility would be expected to follow-up on.

"There could be an increase in the number of on-site inspections depending on the severity of the findings," Castello says.

To break down DHH's number rating system, level one violations indicates lower level findings, with minimal harm to residents.

Level two indicates potential for more than minimal harm to residents. A level three rating could indicate actual harm to residents.

And a level four violation signifies a situation that's likely to cause serious injury, harm, or even death.

"That would determine whether it was an isolated incident, whether we would be able to determine if it was a pattern."

Before any facility is even considered, however, Castello says you should fully understand the financial responsibility of placing a loved one in a home, as well as know exactly what care your loved one will need.

"You should look into whether the facility is able to accept or would have some reimbursement for Medicare or Medicaid if that were the payer source."

Castello says, above all, visit the facility regularly - but always at different times - to get a feel for how it operates.

"Visit at real active times of the day, maybe when a meal is being served or when you may know that there's an activity in place."

If you think someone you love has experienced abuse in a nursing home here in Louisiana, you can file a complaint with the Department of Health and Hospitals.

For a link to that form, click here.

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